Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Le Cordon Bleu intermediate patisserie week 10 - Please wait a second

Living in London whilst studying has been both enjoyable and challenging for me. London is of course a fantastic city but when I compare it to Bristol, Bristol will always come out on top. I did however spend a weekend in London dedicated to food with a wonderful friend of mine and when it comes to food and the diverse menu that London has to offer, I can't find even an ounce of fault with the city. 

London's food scene truly is buzzing and has evolved tremendously over the past few years. Wilkes McDermid, a fantastic food and drinks blogger who sadly took his own life in February of this year, described the changes poetically; 

"For the last few years I have watched London's food and drink scene evolve and mature in response to the subprime recession. London is no longer the ridicule of foreign tourists but has become a destination for those seeking a wealth of culinary diversity"

Diversity in London is the key to its ever growing popularity and the boom of its food scene in particular. There aren't many places on this planet where you can find food from every nation and not only that, fusion foods bringing many nations delicacies together thus making the variety that much greater! 

With my exams complete and my fate well and truly in the hands of the baking gods, I took the opportunity to relax and enjoy just some of the foodie treats that London has to offer. After a hearty breakfast of porridge and some brioche I found in the freezer, left over from week twos Viennoiserie module, we began our weekend with a market based challenge. To return home with some unusual and or wild ingredients for a well deserved Sunday breakfast. Having never been, I took to Broadway Market with my new to London Aussie housemate (everyone in London has one these days, I'm so on trend), and Toby took to Borough Market. 

I was blown away with the variety of food that Broadway had to offer and the quality of the products that lay before my eyes. In the past, when you thought 'Saturday market' you'd probably imagine some cheap and nasty knock off products next to a sad looking fruit and veg stall but this is very much a thing of the past. And thank goodness for that! I was first drawn in by this... a very simple but effective concept. Bread, salmon, mayo and dill. 

Naturally the salmon was Scottish, wild, well hung and delightfully smoked. The bread was fresh, bouncy and crusty in all the right places, the mayo was home made and the dill was as fresh as a daisy. For £3 a slice, this was the most perfect brunch snack a girl could have asked for. Washed down with a delicious cup of tea, I was ready to hunt down the ingredients for our wild Sunday breakfast and when I arrived at the butchers stall, I wasn't quite prepared for how wild things were about to get. 

Set out on the butchers table was a huge array of meats, all beautifully packaged but they weren't all necessarily what you'd expect. Of course we found bacon, a wide selection of premium sausages and other meats such as chicken, lamb, duck, rabbit, pheasant and even veal and then I noticed something a little less ordinary. Squirrel. Of course I wanted one immediately, you can't get much more wild than a squirrel and having never tried squirrel meat I was curious above all else. The butcher explained his reason for selling this slightly unusual meat - for years now the UK have been missing an old friend. The red squirrel. The smaller, much more beautiful cousin of the common grey. Bullied off our island, the red squirrel can now only be found on the Isle of White but following a number of controlled cullings, the UK are soon hoping to re introduce the red in the hope that it'll begin to breed and exist here once again. 

Unlike other animals, such as the badger, who's remains have to be incinerated in order to prevent the spread of deceases, the wild squirrel has been deemed safe and fit for consumption making this procedure much more sustainable and easier for some to stomach. Overwhelmed with excitement at the prospect of trying a new meat for breakfast, I relieved the butcher of one of his finest squirrels and hopped online to find out what could be done with it. I also took half a dozen duck eggs and a pack of bacon and felt I'd well and truly ticked the wild breakfast box. Toby returned with a huge selection of delicious wild mushrooms, bread and blueberries and our Sunday breakfast was complete. 

Upon my return home, I dissected the animal, removing the meat from the bone. I find this to be an absolutely fascinating process. Yes, it's a little gory but if you look beyond the blood and the fact that you're handling flesh, you'll see the workings of something so incredibly amazing that its hard to even comprehend. The design of any living creature leaves me baffled and impressed on so many levels. 

Having read the reviews of many squirrel recipes, I decided to marinate the meat overnight in a punchy concoction of beer, garlic and bacon. I then turned my thoughts to dinner. 

As part of London's food revolution we've seen a huge increase in the popularity of street food. Not only is it trendy to visit a street food stall, but now huge events are being made of it. The food is high quality, the prices are lower than you'd find within a restaurant, the atmosphere is relaxed and this combination therefore makes for a very enjoyable, alternative dining experience. Living a stones throw away, we decided to give Street Feast on the Kingsland Road, Haggerston a go. 

Street Feast at Hawker House is an awesome concept. Its a three story, previously empty building that has been given a new lease of life and is now home to three floors of bars and street food vendors. Upon entering the vibe very much reminded me of Glastonbury Festival. Dim lighting, neon strobes, bright colours and loud music were accompanied by awesome and delicious food. After a thorough review of all food stalls on all floors we decided that the Yum Bun was for us. Without trying all other food offerings its hard to say if our decision was the best but at the time, I couldn't think of anything else I'd have rather eaten. The Yum Bun was a taste sensation and one I've repeated several times since. 

Yum Bun offer two options, sticky pork and hoisin or shrimp with a deliciously refreshing salsa verde, both served in a taco like steamed dim sum bun. Obviously we tried both - sticky pork came out on top and its something I need / must learn to make at home! Thankfully, as this style of food is very much on trend at the moment, Heston has posted a recipe on the Waitrose website so at least I know where to make a start. 

Why not have a go at making them too? Really, they are incredibly delicious; Heston's steamed buns with Mongolian beef

After a night of good food, laughter and lots of dancing a wild breakfast was exactly what everyone needed, although it was a little too early for some to stomach the idea of squirrel. Marinated overnight in beer, garlic and bacon, the squirrel certainly smelted powerful. The meat was gently fried alongside our huge selection of wild mushrooms and served with bacon, toast and scrambled duck eggs. 

Later in the day, after we'd indulged in a little Studio Ghibli at the Prince Charles Cinema (which I highly recommend), it was time for Chotto Matte. A relatively new to Soho, Japanese / Peruvian fusion food restaurant with a relaxed vibe, good music and graffiti covered walls. Opened by Kurt Zdesar, the man responsible for bringing Nobu to the UK, Chotto Matta is one of the first restaurants serving the still relatively unknown Peruvian-Nikkei cuisine (which is essentially named after me ;o)  

Born from the Japanese diaspora living in Peru, Peruvian-Nikkei cooking is much more than just a trendy passing fad. It was born out of necessity in the early 20th century as most Japanese immigrants lacked the necessary ingredients needed to cook their favourite dishes from home. Rather than setting their traditional dishes aside, they resorted to using the fantastic produce of Peru, from Pacific fish and seafood to the high altitude vegetables of the Andes and the fruits from the Amazon, in order to recreate the food they'd grown up with as best as possible. Today, Peruvian-Nikkei cuisine is very much a part of the mainstream diet in Peru, with dishes like Tiradito and Maki Acevihado being just as popular as ceviche or causa.   

Newbies to Peruvian-Nikkei and relative newbies to Peruvian cuisine, we reviewed the mouth watering menu and decided upon the incredibly reasonable pre theatre bento box and sat back to enjoy our prosecco whilst head chef and friend of my teachers at Le Cordon Bleu, Michael Paul and his team rustled us up some delicious sushi with a huge side of ceviche. I don't think my taste buds have ever been on such a varied adventure. Our bento box included; prawn, butternut squash, beetroot, quinoa, tuna, coriander, corn, avocado, steamed rice, vegetables, octopus, purple potato, salmon, chicken, pork, nashi pear, yellow tomatoes and so much more! We were blown away. And just when we thought our meal had come to an end (I certainly had, I was full to the brim), out came a Peruvian chocolate pot and a plate of sorbet balls and all of a sudden, the pudding corner or my stomach made room and once again, my taste buds were in heaven. 

Food aside, the decor was incredible. A visit to the toilet was like an adventure into the crystal maze and being a Bristol girl (sort of...) I of course loved the neon and graffiti around every corner. If you're looking for a culinary mash up to make your mouth water, Chotto Matte is the restaurant for you. And if you're curious about the name, chotto matte in Japanese translates to "please wait a second". I could have waited there all night. Great food, great atmosphere, a great team and great company. I doubt I'll be having such a fabulous food fuelled weekend for some time!

Strangely, for me, my weekend was entirely cake free. No cake, not even a crumb. My next blog post however will feature enough cake to give you tooth ache. Exam results, Easter cake and wedding cake to follow! 

*Please note that the views I express are mine alone and do not reflect the views of my place of study*

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